WASHINGTON — Democrats, including Rep. Betty McCollum, launched into an assault on incivility Tuesday, saying incendiary words from members of Congress were inflaming tensions that could provoke another incident of Oklahoma City-style domestic terrorism.
“When Members of Congress compare health-care legislation to ‘government tyranny,’ ‘socialism,’ or ‘totalitarianism’ — in the hopes of scoring political points — it’s like pouring gas on the fire of extremism,” McCollum said.
McCollum’s St. Paul office was one of a few that received an envelope containing gasoline-soaked tatters of an American flag and a letter that called her things not fit for print in this or any publication. Several police departments, including St. Paul and the Capitol Police, are investigating.
“The members of this House — Democrats and Republicans — have a duty and an obligation to end the dangerous name-calling that can only inspire the extremist militias and phony patriots,” McCollum said. “In the most free, prosperous and greatest democracy on earth it is time to return to a civil, decent debate of public policy.”
“I don’t want another ‘Oklahoma City’ to ever take place again,” McCollum said. “Just as we would not give aid and comfort to al-Qaida, let us not allow the words of elected leaders give comfortable excuses to extremists bent on violence.”
Oklahoma Republicans hit back, with Rep. Tom Cole saying in a statement that “the fact that a member of Congress would invoke this tragedy to make a cheap political statement is reprehensible. Members of both parties should show respect for the victims’ families and refrain from using rhetoric that politicizes this tragic event.”
Nowhere in that floor speech did she say the name Michele Bachmann, but it’s pretty clear that the darling of the Tea Party right fits the bill as someone whose rhetoric McCollum would like to be toned down. Bachmann has said the recently passed health care bill amounts to socialism, that the tactics used to pass it amounted to tyranny. A quickie search didn’t show an example of her calling it totalitarianism, though plenty of Republicans (like Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch) have.
The No.2 Democrat in the House, Maryland’s Steny Hoyer, hit out at Bachmann and Minnesota talk radio host Chris Baker for denying that racial epithets were hurled at black lawmakers, including civil-rights icon John Lewis, during protests in the run-up to the health care vote.
“I think it undermines the credibility of somebody who’s a denier. People denied a lot of things happened, bad things that happened,” Hoyer said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt that what John Lewis said happened and what others saw and heard happen did, in fact, happen. That’s why I think the credibility of that assertion is questionable.”
Not so coincidentally, Thursday is April 15, tax day. There’s a Tea Party rally planned for that day to highlight what organizers call Washington’s out-of-control spending.
Organizers say they are planning to kick out any “infiltrators” from the left, whom they allege are responsible for the incivility at previous rallies.
I reached out to Bachmann’s office for comment, and will update with their response when I get it.